Happy birthday Zoe!

My daughter’s 2nd Birthday passed recently and I wanted to make her a cake that not only tasted good but was beautiful as well. First of all I am not a pastry Chef. Savory cooks and pastry cooks are animals that exist in the same jungle but eat different things and follow a different set of instincts to survive. I have made my share of polenta cakes, molten chocolate cakes and panna cottas, but the art of rolled fondant, sugar paste flowers and the like eludes me. It was for 20 people so I figured I’d keep it simple and make a 2 layer 9 X 12 yellow sheet cake with cream cheese frosting.

I’m not a fan of food coloring. I won’t get on my soapbox  but it has been linked to hyperactivity and autoimmune problems in children. If you would like to read some more about it here are some links. As you’ll read, the FDA denies the claims but it’s not uncommon for them to do that to protect their interests. More studies definitely need to be done about this.  Regardless, my view is why put anything in our food that doesn’t need to be there?




Anyway, I colored the frosting with beet cooking liquid and turmeric. The colors were beautiful and didn’t affect the flavor at all!

For this cake I did a X4 batch of frosting. I colored 1 batch pink, 1 yellow and 2 I left white. I had some frosting left over so I froze it for cupcakes in the future.

Here is the recipe for the frosting, which was deee-licious. I like a more tangy, less buttery and sweet frosting. I wasn’t entirely sold on the cake itself, so I’m going to hold off on that recipe until I find the perfect one.. If anyone has a good yellow buttery cake recipe, please by all means share!

Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes enough for 1 single layer 9″ round cake.

16 oz. cream cheese, (brick-not whipped) at room temp

4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temp

2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted

1 tsp vanilla extract

pinch of salt

1. In a mixer, beat cream cheese and butter with paddle at medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute.

2. Add sugar, vanilla and salt. Beat on lowest speed until sugar is incorporated.

3. Raise speed to medium and beat until fluffy.

At this stage you can add the coloring agents. If using turmeric, just add a 1/8 tsp at a time until desired color is reached.

For pink the process is a little more involved, but you can roast the beets a day ahead, reserve the liquid and then eat the beets whenever. Make sure you use red beets, not golden or candy striped.

Beet “Juice

1. With a peeler (and wearing gloves, because beet juice will stain your fingers), peel beets. I wouldn’t normally peel beets before roasting them, as it is very easy to rub off the skin with a towel after they are cooked, but we want the liquid not to taste “dirty” because we are going to use it. The skin can impart a dirty, woodsy taste.

2. Place beets in a corningware or other baking dish with high sides. You want the beets to fit comfortably in there, without too much space all around them. Even a shallow pot with a lid that is ovenproof would work. If the beets are monstrous, or of all different sizes, cut them in half or even in quarters. The idea is to have them all be of similar size and small enough that they don’t take forever to roast.

3. Add about 1/4″ water to the bottom of the dish.

4. Cover it with either a lid or aluminum foil.

5. Roast at about 400 until beets are tender when a small knife is inserted into them. The time really depends on the size of the beets- for really small ones, start checking at 20 minutes. Large softball sized beets could take an hour (which is why you would cut them down). Notice we aren’t seasoning the beets with salt. If you were cooking them just to eat, you would salt them. But the liquid will then be salted and we don’t want that in our frosting. You can easily salt the beets themselves after they are cooked.

6. Remove the beets from the beautiful ruby liquid and lightly salt them. I also like to sprinkle them with a bit of nice vinegar (red wine, champagne or moscato- not balsamic) while they are still warm. Then you can store them and eat them another time.

7. Cool down liquid and store until ready to use. You only need a few drops to color a batch of frosting. Add a couple of drops and beat until completely incorporated.

Here is what the finished product looked like.

Birthday Cake!

Zoe's Birthday cake